Sunday, 31 July 2011

Crab, Prawn & Samphire Sambal

I've made prawn sambal before; it was so long ago that I got a desperate craving for it again this weekend. Leftover white and brown crabmeat as well as samphire sat in the fridge, glaring at me unused so in a fit of experimentation it all got lobbed in and I was richly rewarded. Spicy, coconutty with deep undertones of the sea, eaten with plenty of rice it brought a sheen of sweat to the brow. Though samphire isn't a typical Asian ingredient, its' salty crunch worked beautifully, complementing the velvet strands of the white crab meat.

Open all your windows when frying your spice paste, unless you like the feeling of your lungs burning with every breath.

Crab, Prawn & Samphire Sambal

Serves 2

10 raw prawns
A small handful of samphire
1 small onion sliced into half moons
2 tbsp brown crabmeat
1 heaped tbsp white crabmeat
1 spring onion
2 tomatoes
10 tbsp coconut milk

For the spice paste:

1 small onion
2 stalks of lemongrass
2 cloves of garlic
2 red chillis
4 dried red chillis
1 inch piece of galangal
1 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp shrimp paste

Wash thoroughly and steam the samphire for a couple of minutes. In a small blender add the onion, garlic, galangal, the inner part of the lemongrass roughly chopped with the tamarind and shrimp paste. Soak the chillis in hot water, then add these. Deseed them if you're not a hardcore chilli head. Add 2 tbsp cooking oil and blend into a paste.

In a wok, heat a little oil and add the curry leaves taken off the branch till they sizzle. Add the spice paste and the brown crabmeat, add the half moon onions, then stir-fry until fragrant. Add the coconut milk and the sugar and simmer for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes sliced into quarters, the samphire and the prawns, stirring until they turn pink. Take off the heat and garnish with the spring onion, sliced on the diagonal. Serve with rice, topping with the white crabmeat.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Moo Ping

After I munched on moo ping (grilled pork skewers) at Kaosarn, a Thai restaurant in Brixton, I knew I had to make them. Charcoal-scented pork, juicy with fat and the perfect balance of sweet and spicy? Yes please. A friend was having a barbecue so it seemed the perfect opportunity to try my hand at making them. If I'm not careful I'll get myself a reputation for being a 'things on sticks' kind of girl. Though I suppose that wouldn't be too bad.

I think the traditional cut of meat for this is pork neck, but I couldn't find any so I went for shoulder steaks. With ample amounts of fat, this makes sure the pork doesn't dry out on the ferocious heat of the barbecue. Sliced thinly and cooked quickly makes sure that they don't go tough. Don't be alarmed by the amount of sugar; you need it for essential caramelisation. Dipping sauce is mandatory.

Moo Ping

600gr pork shoulder steaks
5 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp coconut milk

Slice the shoulder into think strips, about 1cm wide. Mince the garlic and mix with the other ingredients, then marinade overnight, or at least for a couple of hours. Thread onto bamboo skewers soaked in water for half an hour. Barbecue, turning often as the sugar in the marinade tends to catch. They don't take long - 5 - 10 minutes.

Dipping Sauce:

1 tbsp chilli flakes
1 green chilli
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp water
1 tsp sugar
Juice of 1 lime
3 tbsp oil

Place the chilli flakes in a heatproof bowl with the green chilli, sliced. Heat the oil till almost smoking, then carefully pour over the chilli mix. Wait to cool for a few minutes, then add the fish sauce, water, sugar and lime. Mix thoroughly. Serve with the skewers.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Big Red

Whoever looked at the space between a pub and a railway bridge and thought "I know, I'll park a bus up there and serve pizzas" was a little genius. Thanks to The Deptford Dame, I found about about The Big Red and dragged six of my mates there to try it out.

Deptford is no stranger to restaurants in strange confines. Though I haven't been, The Deptford Project looks like a perfect brunch place housed in a train carriage and now we have pizzas from another mode of transport. But you don't have to sit on a bus; a patio with tables and chairs, as well as big squidgy couches were where we chose to sit.

We got right stuck into a few jugs of sangria which were packed full of fruit and tasted dangerously unboozy.

As there were so many of us, we managed to order pretty much everything on the menu. A slight mix up in the ordering meant that we also got a starter of bread with nuggets of chorizo and black pudding - the black pudding in particular drew gasps of appreciation, as the sausages were split open to reveal soft creamy insides.

I went for the special veg pizza with extra Spanish anchovies. The bases were crisp and light, though not too thin that they'd shatter. They held the toppings of red onion, courgette, olives, peppers, capers and tomatoes well. The anchovies were obviously of top quality as rather than being overwhelmingly salty or fishy, they were just right.

Pepperoni and mushroom pizza was great - just the right amount of pepperoni and not overly greasy. Around the table, the Flamenco (with black pudding and chorizo) was hugely commended, as well as the seafood pizza. Even the Margherita, which I usually find a bit dull, was excellent. As we digested our food, huge satisfied grins beamed around the table. With a red heatlamp bearing down on us and the music at a happy 'it's Friday night' level, we all had to remind each other that we were sitting under the Deptford railway bridge, and were not in fact, on holiday. We fell in love with the place.

After an espresso to get us moving, we paid up the very reasonable £18 each with service (we had at least 4 jugs of sangria, at £12 per jug) and waddled off to a nearby pub.

The Big Red

30 Deptford Church Street
London SE8 4RZ

Tel: 020 3490 8346

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Hainan Chicken Rice

Though Hainan chicken rice would suggest the dish is Chinese, it's massively popular in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. A lot of people don't get the point of it, and I don't blame them; essentially, it is just whole poached chicken. Chicken with flabby skin. But it's so much more. The chicken, poached till just done gets a plunging in an ice bath, making the skin and flesh firm and bouncy. The resultant broth is served along side garlicky rice cooked in a little chicken fat, a gingery chilli sauce enlivening and colouring the plate. So simple, but so comforting and delicious.

I grew up on this dish, and the best version to this date was at The Shangri-La hotel in Singapore, aged around 8. I remember it vividly, the silken grains of rice flavoured liberally with chicken fat, the broth soothing.

I haven't seen many versions in London; the one nearest in Croydon serves the dish without broth, a heresy in my view. So I decided to make it myself.

Hainan Chicken Rice

Serves 4

1 whole chicken (mine was 1.2kg)
5 spring onions
5 slices of ginger, about an inch thick
A few handfuls of flaked salt, not table salt
Enough water to cover the chicken in a pot

Firstly, get the handfuls of salt and exfoliate the chicken. Yes. Grab the salt and rub the skin vigourously to get rid of any pimply feathery bits. Rinse the chicken. Stuff the spring onions and garlic into the cavity. Put into the stockpot with the water and bring to the simmer, skimming off any scum that accumulates. Simmer gently for 35 - 45 mins for a chicken of my size. Remove and plunge immediately into an iced bath. This stops the cooking process and makes the flesh nice and firm.

For the rice:

400gr rice
3 cloves of garlic
1" of ginger
1 stalk of spring onion

In a frying pan, heat some oil and add the ginger and garlic, minced. Fry slowly until fragrant. Bung into your rice cooker with your rice and use the chicken stock, trying to get as much chicken fat in as possible, to cook it. Or use whatever method you do to cook rice. When done, sprinkle with chopped spring onion.

Chilli sauce

6 mild red chillis, 1 burn-your-face-off hot chilli
2 inches of ginger
4 cloves of garlic
Juice of 1 lime
A pinch of salt

Place the above in a whizzer and whizz til smooth.

To serve; chop up the chicken with the bones and all and serve with a bowl of rice, a little chilli sauce, and a bowl of broth.

I got snazzy new crockery sent to me by Ink Dish. Aint it pretty?

Sunday, 17 July 2011


I wasn't going to write about Roganic; every man and their dog has written about it so far so what more can I add to it? But there were some flashes of jaw-dropping brilliance, so here we are. I was lucky enough to be treated to lunch there on a rainy Saturday and upon arrival, the decor was startling; I was expecting a bright, carpeted room, and I got a small room with stark, dark furnishings. Open for only two years, this is Simon Rogan's (of L'Enclume, oop North) London outpost. We kicked off with an apricot vodka drink, expressed from a cream canister that was reviving and sprightly. Fritters adorned with flowers accompanied it. We opted for the 10 course blow-out lunch (there are 6 and 3 courses available) at £80.

The menu was peppered with words I didn't recognise, such as hyssop; a type of herb with a slight minty flavour. Visually a delight, the flavours of the beetroot, broadbean and curd were simple and refreshing.

Scarlet ball turnip was baked in ash and served with a smoked egg yolk. Sunshine-yellow, the smokiness of the yolk could be smelled as soon as the plate arrived. The velvet texture of the yolk married well with strands of crunchy samphire and soft turnip. Our lovely and knowledgeable waiter was only too happy to explain the technicalities of the dish.

Seawater cured Kentish mackerel had a crisp skin, as it should do. Broccoli was dehydrated and pureed; Regent's Park elderflower honey drizzled about the plate seemed strange, but in fact brought it all together nicely.

Shredded ox tongue was served sandwiched between two sourdough crisps, and reminded me rather of a Viajante dish. When eaten with the blobs of cauliflower puree, the combination of lightly pickled vegetables and the ox tongue reminded me of Heinz's sandwich spread. I love that stuff.

Flaked crab was served atop cubes of compressed cucumber and raw cubes of squid. The dark bits are squid ink croutons, allowing some crunch within the slightly slimy soft bites. Mallow cream, another new one on me, sauced the dish nicely. It became evident that Roganic's people are quite the foragers.

Heritage potatoes with onion ash, lovage and wood sorrel was a hefty number. While the potatoes and onion ash were delicious, the heavy tread of the lovage came stomping through it, spreading it's medicinal, acid flavour over everything and lingering on far more than it was welcome.

Roasted brill with chicken salt and clams was the first course to make me go "oooooh!" delightedly. The fish was served with a cracked wheat crust which had been soaked in rich chicken stock and then roasted and the plate delivered an aroma like that of your kitchen on a Sunday when roasting a chicken. Intensely savoury, the fish flaked apart beautifully. Dabs of mushroom puree were insanely rich, but well matched with the fish itself.

Cumbrian hogget with sweetbreads, artichoke and chenopodiums (I know - eh?) was another masterpiece. The nugget of hogget was pink within and the sweet, fluffy sweetbreads were pillow-soft and mellow. Chenopodiums are in fact the leaf on the plate; they taste much like spinach.

With most of the menu done, we were offered cheese; naturally this led to a hot debate on cheese before or after pudding. I won, and we selected a few English cheeses and a stinky Irish from the cheeseboard. Served with excellent crackers and a tart gooseberry and celery relish, these hit the spot nicely.

Our first dessert was strawberry glass with sweet cicely, buttermilk and verbena. This was one of my favourite courses of the meal. The sweet ciceley is the green liquid; slightly aniseed in flavour, it went brilliantly with the macerated strawberries and the strawberry glass. The buttermilk was like a sort of pannacotta, lending creaminess to the plate. Upon enquiring, we were brought a stalk of sweet cicely to satisfy the curiosity.

The highs of the last dish made the crashing low of the next only too evident. Spiced warm brioche with smoked clotted cream, salted almonds an buckthorn curd is apparently a Marmite dish; you either love it or hate it. I hated it. It tasted disturbingly of bacon and though I love the pig, I did not love it in dessert form.

How appropriate, then, that the final offering should boggle my mind so. A Douglas Fir milkshake with flapjack has the rare quality of being able to make me giggle delightedly; it tasted like Christmas! Woody pine flavoured the sweet milk and if I was wanky enough to have closed my eyes while supping on it I'd have imagined myself in a forest.

Teeny tiny fairy cakes topped with a raspberry accompanied coffee, and off we toddled back out into the rain. I felt thoroughly well looked after - at no point did any of the waiting staff or manager seem harried, but they were personable and answered our many questions patiently. I didn't enjoy every course I had, but they were all an education. Though 10 courses seemed a lot, we found portion sizing perfect, and it never became overwhelming. That said, I still fell asleep on the tube.


19 Blandford Street
London W1U 3DH

Tel: 0207 4860380

Roganic on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Chicken & Spinach Dhansak

I wasn't going to blog this, as I broke the cardinal sin of curry making and rather than faff around toasting and grinding my whole spices, I USED CURRY POWDER. Yep, there it is. I supplemented it with other spices too, but being someone who previously turned their nose up at pre-mixed curry powders, I was staggered to find it was one of the most delicious curries I've made.

Dhansak has always been a takeaway favourite of mine, owing to the texture of the lentils as well as the sweet, sour and hot balance of flavours. I haven't really followed a recipe here but rather did it by intuition, so apologies to the authenticity police. Given it took a mere hour to make, this is a keeper. It was served with this onion and pomegranate salad (I jazzed it up by adding chilli and cucumber) and rice - excess pomegranate seeds went into the curry, which gave some nice tart bursts of flavour.

Chicken & Spinach Dhansak

Serves 4

250gr chicken thighs, skinned and boned
150gr dried red lentils
2 tbsp medium curry powder (I used Sainsburys)
1 heaped tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
3 cardamom pods
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chilli powder
2 large white onions
6 cloves of garlic
3" ginger
A bunch of spinach, or about 300gr frozen spinach
1 tin of tomatoes
3 tsp sugar
1 lime or 3 tsp tamarind puree
3 tbsp ghee

Dice the onion finely and mince the garlic and ginger. Fry slowly in the ghee until nice and browned. Add the lentils in with the spices, stir to cover and add about 200mls water. Bring to a simmer and simmer briskly for 10 minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes in. Simmer for another 10 mins, then add the chicken thighs in. Carry on simmering; the lentils should have broken down by now, making it nice and thick. Stir occasionally and add the salt. Add the sugar - it looks like a lot of it but the lime is quite strong so it should level it out nicely.

Meanwhile, if you're using fresh spinach wash and steam it, then blend it until smooth. If using frozen, cook briefly so it's defrosted but not overcooked. Drain well. Just before serving, mix the spinach in with the curry and squeeze the lime juice in. Cook for a further 2 minutes, then take off the heat.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Golden Sand Corn

I've never had this dish before, but after I read about it on Tamarind and Thyme I knew I had to have it. But where Su-Lin had it was in Acton, in West London, and it's quite far away. Being the perpetual lazy bones that I am, I resolved to make it instead.

Having had a good ol' Google, I discovered its actual name is 'golden sand corn'. The kernels, coated in egg white and cornflour, are deep fried and then fried again with cooked salted egg yolks. This gives it the sandy texture typical to this dish. Each kernel is covered in a light batter, seasoned with salty eggyness and when you bite into it, pops juicily in your mouth. I served it with rice and my attempt at hand torn cabbage.

Golden Sand Corn

Serves 2, with sides

1 tin (285gr drained) of sweetcorn, drained well
1 egg white
3 salted duck egg yolks (you can buy these at the Chinese supermarket - make sure the eggs are raw)
1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
Pinch of salt
200gr cornflour
Vegetable oil, for deep frying
1 spring onion

Add the sweetcorn to 100gr cornflour, coating well. Shake off excess in a sieve and then add the sweetcorn to the egg white. Coat well, then add back into the bowl with another 100gr cornflour. Stir to coat and leave to stand.

Meanwhite, add the egg yolks, rice wine and a pinch of salt to a small bowl. Steam for 10 - 15 minutes to cook the yolks. Mash well with a spoon.

Heat up about 4 inches of oil in your wok until it shimmers. Sieve the corn again to get rid of excess batter so it doesn't clump, and then add to the wok, stirring well as it deep fries. Deep fry for 5 or so minutes, until the batter is crisp. Drain and leave on a paper-lined plate. Heat up another tbsp of oil, then fry the egg yolks well. Add the corn kernels back in and stir-fry for 5 minutes, until you see the sandy consistency. Add the spring onions, sliced on the diagonal and then take off the heat and serve immediately.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Kimchi Summer Rolls

With summer comes an almost weekly procession of barbecues. I was never a bringer of sausages and burgers to a party; last week these fat, squat summer rolls, a hybrid of the Vietnamese and Korean cuisines, made an appearance instead.

Given my propensity for rolling cigarettes, you'd think I'd make a neater bundle. The first always turns out a shocker; the rest, vaguely passable.

For the filling, bouncy prawns and ponytail kimchi were used. This particular type of kimchi is made from the ponytail radish - so called, I suspect, because of its burst of green leaf. Called 'chonggak kimchi', it's peppery. Sliced into batons, it added a good amount of spicy, tangy crunch. Both ponytail radish kimchi and summer roll wrappers should be available at your local Asian supermarket.

Kimchi Summer Rolls

Enough for 6 people

1 packet of summer roll wrapper (I use these)
1 small head of Little Gem lettuce, shredded
A handful of glass noodles, cooked
1 carrot, julienned
10 prawns, cooked and sliced lengthways in half
2 kimchi ponytail radishes, julienned
A small handful of coriander, chopped finely
Greens of 3 stalks of spring onion, shredded
A few stalks of mint, leaves picked
Half a lime

Mix the carrots, glass noodles, radishes, spring onions and lettuce in a bowl. Sprinkle with the juice of half a lime. Meanwhile, add some hand-hot water to a shallow dish. Lay out a clean tea towel. Place the roll wrapper in the water for 10 - 20 seconds, until it becomes soft, then lay on the tea towel. To make things pretty, add a mint leaf to the centre of the circle, then a prawn, sliced in half, below. Add a small bundle of veg etc. under that - roll like this. Or however you see fit.


4 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp water
1 tsp sugar
Juice of 1 lime
1 red chilli (hot)
1 clove of garlic

Mince the garlic and chop the chilli. Combine vigorously with the above to serve as a dipping sauce with the summer rolls.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Chaconia, Deptford

I'm a bit of a lurker over at Chowhound, the food message board; I don't often have time to post, but when I remember I dip in and out and although a lot of it is made up of tourists wondering where to eat in London, you can pick up a load of good suggestions. It was there I first heard of Chaconia, a Caribbean (or, more specifically, Trini) cafe in Deptford. Being a mere 15 minute walk from home to me, I had to visit, especially as the words 'best roti in the UK' were used.

Without a website or any ideas about opening hours, I chanced my luck and headed for 12pm. Alas, it was closed. I meandered around the high street for a bit taking in the stalls of Deptford Market that line the high street, and on my way back, around 12:30pm it was open. So I'd aim for 1pm. A lovely woman behind the counter welcomed me warmly and I ordered a potato and spinach curry roti.

As the lady was making my order, she explained to me that everything is freshly made on the premises. When I told her the compliment I'd read about the roti, she beamed with pride. Made into a wrap, the package was then wrapped in greaseproof paper and popped in the microwave for a few seconds - "roti has to be PIPING hot!"

Soft, chewy roti wrapped gently spiced potato and spinach. Cooked with plenty of cumin seeds, the roti meal was deliciously fulfilling. Make sure you ask for the pepper sauce, as the home-made luridly orange sauce was as hot as hell, the fruity scotch bonnets shining through in the dominant flavour. A cup of sorrel, which the lady told me was made with hibiscus and cinnamon, tasted fresh and fruity without being too sweet.

"Make sure you come back for goat! I make good goat. No pressure cookers." I am excited about next weekend's lunch already.


26 Deptford High Street
London SE8 4AF

Tel: 020 8692 8815

Friday, 1 July 2011

Restaurants in Residence - The Young Turks & The Clove Club

Buttermilk fried chicken, raw peas in their pod

Restaurants in Residence are currently showcasing 4 different places from London's underground pop-up scene; I've always been a fan of The Young Turks (I went to their stint at the Loft Project; pics here) and, coupled with The Clove Club, I secured myself a seat at their dinner held in a disused building in Canary Wharf, to be torn down after this event. After a drink on the terrace when the sun was just setting over Canary Wharf, we were led to our seats in a curiously office-like space.

Cucumber with Indian spices

Fresh peas in the pod were the sweetest things, staining my nails green as I scrabbled the pods open. Buttermilk fried chicken nestled with acorns were fried deftly and were juicy within. Refreshing batons of cucumber gave rich, earthy Indian flavours.

Tomato salad with goat's milk

I've long bemoaned the lack of flavour the tomatoes in England have, but these were a different story. Sweet and juicy, the goat's milk brought out their natural sugars even more.

Raw Mackerel with Cucumber

Fleshy, raw slices of mackerel were smooth as silk and freshened by shavings of cucumber, and splodges of mustard. A well-balanced dish, it was a sight to behold and I was almost loathe to destroy it with my fork. But I did.

Angus rib, grilled onions

Angus rib tasted smoky and rich, while being as tender as butter. Land cress added spicy grassy notes and it got completely demolished within seconds, by all around the table.

I've never tried loganberries; they're a bit like raspberries, I'd say. The tartness was offset by a moussy ewes milk yoghurt. Unfortunately I completely missed the petit fours as I managed to get spectacularly drunk (I blame jetlag. And the wine.) but from the blurry, darkened photo it looked like some sort of ice cream mini burger.

The Young Turks with The Clove Club are only running until the 7th July, so for god's sake, GO. At £45 a ticket (food only) it isn't cheap, but the quality is stunning and you get some really good wine recommendations from their lovely servers.

Book HERE or call 07812 377427.